News!, For Photographers

Photography & Business Workshop

The next MJ2Day will take place at my home in Phoenix on November 4-5th and there are only a few spots left!

I love teaching other photographers by sharing my passion for business and what has worked for me. It's so gratifying to see each attendee who comes through my workshop get excited when they have lightbulb moments, and get inspired to make their dreams a reality. Although I love teaching so much, and will always likely do so in some fashion, after the workshop in November, I will be taking an indefinite break from my MJ2Day workshop. My business is going through a lot of changes right now and in order to continue to teach and share from a place of authenticity, I am needing to take a step back and focus more of my energy elsewhere. If and when I do decide to start teaching workshops again, the format will likely be different. I really don't know what the future holds, but I feel an incredible peace about taking this step.

So what does all of this mean? Well, I can't say for sure, but it's likely that this November's MJ2Day will be the last workshop of its kind. So if you've been wanting to attend and just waiting for the right moment -- now is the time! My fall Phoenix workshop typically sells out with a waiting list, so don't wait to sign up! Dixie and I would love to have you here and get to know you!

If you're traveling in from out of state, the workshop location is only minutes from Phoenix Skyharbor Airport. We have a Facebook Group where you will be able to connect with other attendees to find roommates and share cars if you want to minimize travel costs.

Click here for more information about the cost of the workshop and what is included.
Click here to read reviews on the blogs' of past attendees and here to read up on what workshop alumni are up to now to find out the value of the workshop.
Click here to find out why filling every spot in this workshop will provide clean drinking water for 130 people.
Click here to see the fun free stuff you will get from our sponsors for attending.
Click here to email me if you read all of the above and still have any excuses for not signing up.

And click here to claim your spot now!

Hope to see you there!

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For Photographers

Gearing up for busy season!

As we are gearing up for our busy season in Arizona, I wanted to do a blog post for photographers to share our secret sauce for getting through the craziness and keeping up with our turn-around times.

During 6 weeks in October and the beginning of November this year, we have 19 weddings as a studio. On October 18th – the most popular wedding date in Arizona this fall – we have four weddings and all six of us will be shooting. Most weekends during this period we have at least 2-3 weddings. And to top it off, I am also teaching a workshop during that time. It’s going to be insane.

Our turn-around time goals are pretty ambitious. For my weddings, we shoot to get all the proofs online within one week, and for our associate weddings, we promise three weeks but shoot for two weeks. Suffice it to say, we’re having to employ some serious strateg-ery (made up word) to have any hope of keeping up with our deadlines. We printed off our iCal for October/November and took a pencil to it to plan out exactly what needs to get done each and every day in order to meet our goals. Since our associate photographers don’t do any color correction or editing (they only cull & FTP to us), the studio has to process each wedding, deliver products, and send images to vendors. It’s A LOT.

Our secret sauce for this craziness is ShootDotEdit. We outsource the bulk of our associate weddings during busy season to our post-processing partners at SDE. Here is a review of some of the things I love about ShootDotEdit:

1 - They make our images look consistent every time based on our chosen color profile. They are all about skin tones, which I love. Their goal is to get those dialed in. They don’t match our editing style exactly, but they get our images 90% of the way there, and my office-manager, Alaine, can dial them in the additional 10%.

2 - They have SUPER-fast turn-around times. Typically our jobs are done and back to us within 48 hours.

3 - Their DotPreview service gives us a sampling of 10 images from throughout each wedding, provided in one business day. That way we can check them and tweak our chosen color profile, if necessary, before the whole job is done. Again – SUPER fast.

4 - Their Lightroom 5 Workflow utilizes the Smart Preview feature in Lightroom 5 so we can send smaller preview files rather than full-size files. This makes our file-sending time significantly faster both ways.

5 - Their UNLIMITED Plan is great for busy studios shooting more than 8 weddings per year. You get unlimited editing for a fixed monthly price. For what it will cost you to have one wedding edited elsewhere, you can get a majority of your color correction done by ShootDotEdit throughout the entire month. No more worrying about paying per job, you get the ease of just one monthly payment. They also have a Rollover Plan, which allows for you to submit 1 wedding or 2 portrait sessions each month for only $99/month.

What I’ve learned over the years is that sometimes, as a business owner, I need to let go and outsource in order for my business to survive. And I need to do so even MORE if I want it to grow. I need to get these types of tasks off of my plate and over to some experts I can trust, so that I can work on tasks like networking and marketing that will help open up new opportunities and bring in additional revenue. So often photographers who have young businesses feel they can’t afford to outsource. But more than likely, they can’t afford not to. Outsourcing is definitely one of our tried and true keys to success.

So if I’m being honest, I’m still a bit unnerved every time I look at our fall calendar. But I guess we’re as ready as we’ll ever be! BRING IT ON!

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Fall Mini Sessions are here!

I'm excited to announce that I will be offering a limited number of mini portrait sessions this fall! These are perfect for:

-Families looking for a few amazing photos for their holiday cards
-Moms-to-be who want maternity photos
-Engaged couples needing a few photos for their save-the-date cards
-Those who have been wanting to get some professional photos taken, but don't want to spend a ton (these are 1/2 the price of my regular sessions!)
-Anyone who has been putting off getting updated professional photos

I know it's hard to start thinking about the holidays already, but remember how crazy last November/December was? Wouldn't it be nice to have updated photos BEFORE the craziness ensues?

I am offering a limited number of sessions at these locations:

August 30 -- Flagstaff, Arizona (above pictured wooded area -- yay for cooler weather!)
September 27 -- Old Town Scottsdale

If you book by August 28th, you will get the session, an online gallery of 20-30 images, and 25 custom fine art holiday cards for $299 (regular price is $350)!

We have some super-cute card options. These are all lay-flat front/back 5x7 cards printed on high quality paper:

In addition to the basic package, extra add-ons are available and include:

-Additional cards in sets of 25
-Individual digital images or all of the digital images from the session
-Custom canvases or prints for your walls

Sessions are limited, and they will fill up fast! If you are interested in securing yours, contact Alaine at alaine{at}melissajill{dot}com.

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News!, For Photographers

Change. Adapt. Repeat.

I haven't blogged in three weeks. And only two people have asked me about it -- my mom and a long-distance friend who was concerned for my well-being. Haha! I'm thinking this might support my hypothesis that people aren't reading wedding photography blogs as much as they used to?

Prior to these past three weeks, I've blogged 3-4 times per week for EIGHT YEARS. And there's nothing to say except I hit a wall. It was like God said, "Take a break." And then left me with a total peace about doing so. And it HAS to be God, because let me tell you, I normally would be anxiety-ridden at the thought of leaving my blog unattended for 3 weeks!

My blog has long been the engine that has driven my business. It sells me to potential clients, connects me with vendors and other photographers, and helps me share my heart and my brand with others. But I feel like times are changing. Brides are spending their time on Pinterest, photographers are on Instagram, and all of our attention spans are too short to want to click through to find out more. We just browse and tap rather than interacting. Brides still look at wedding blogs like Style Me Pretty for inspiration, but I don't see them spending as much time on photographers' blogs other than if they are wanting to see more of their portfolios when they are looking to hire one of us.

Of course, this is all just my impression. I don't have any hard evidence to corroborate these findings. But in talking with other photographers and industry colleagues, many are sensing the same shift.

I'm not sure what to do with all this, but I just know that what used to work for me isn't working anymore. 2014 has been a hard year for my business. It seems like doors that used to open fairly easily for me aren't doing so anymore. Instead I find myself hitting a wall. Again and again. And not just as it relates to blogging, but in numerous other areas.

I'm still in the midst of this journey, but I feel like I've gained enough perspective to know that God is allowing this to happen to get me uncomfortable enough to abandon the route I was bound and determined to take, in favor of a different path that will hopefully serve me and my business well for the long-run. I wish I could spell this all out for you, but I'm still reflecting on it and praying through it all.

I think I'll look back on 2014 and see a year of huge changes for my business. This is my 11th year in business. The younger me would have thought I would have had it all figured out by now. The side of me that loves systems, would like to think that I could invent a system for everything and then just let the systems run. But unfortunately, neither of these ideals is rooted in reality. At least when it comes to the wedding photography industry, I don't think there will ever be a permanent state of "figuring everything out." Even though there may be victories and good years, and times when things are going smoothly -- at the risk of sounding like a complete downer -- they are at best temporary. Why? Two reasons:

1. This industry is extremely competitive and extremely innovative.
2. Change is happening and technology is advancing at break-neck speeds.

If you insist on doing the same things year after year only because they've worked for you in the past, you will quickly find yourself left in the dust and going out of business.

I share all of this just to be real and honest and vulnerable for those who might think having your own small business is all glamor and flexibility and success. It's not. It's really tough. And it doesn't get easier with time and experience. It only changes. So you don't ever get the luxury of getting off the hamster wheel. You just occasionally need to jump onto another one. So that's what I'm doing. Adapting. Embracing change.

The great thing is, I'm super-excited about what the future holds. Even though it might look different than what I expected at the beginning of this year, it promises to be inspiring, challenging and life-giving. Mostly because God is the one guiding my every step. I would be a mess without Christ. A fetal-position-on-the-floor-blubbering-mess.

"My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly trust in Jesus' name."

So what does this mean going forward? There are some fun things I've been working on that I'm excited to share with you soon. Stay tuned. But for now, I will be scaling back a bit on blogging. Not abandoning my blog all-together, but blogging a bit less. Maybe 1-2 times per week. I'll be posting on Instagram more frequently if you want to connect with me there -- @melissajill.

And photographers -- I will be on ShowIt Live tomorrow morning at 10am PST talking about Selling Albums Profitably and Efficiently. You can join me here and post any questions you'd like answered regarding album sales and workflow. I hope you'll tune in!

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Passing the Torch -- Meet MJP's new office manager!

As many of you know, MJP has been in search of a new office manager for a number of months. To be completely honest, it has been a tough and emotional road for me. I have come to rely so heavily on Sara over the past 3 1/2 years and it was so hard for me to imagine replacing her. Sara has helped grow MJP into what it is today and as many of you know who have had the opportunity to work with her in some capacity -- she wears MANY hats. And she wears them all with a cute smile on her face, always giving her best effort to each task, and caring for the people she comes in contact with well. She is so special to me and will be GREATLY missed in the office.

But I'm SO excited to announce that we have found a new, brilliant office manager to take the torch from Sara and forge new paths that are undoubtedly in MJP's future. I'm SO thrilled to introduce you all to Alaine! I could go on an on about both Sara and Alaine, but I thought it would be better to hand over the blog to them for this torch-passing ceremony. So here we go, starting with a note from Sara:

I’m going to try to do this without crying. Ha.

When I first started working for Melissa 3 1/2 years ago, I was lost but motivated. I never expected she’d offer me a job that day I asked her out to lunch. I just wanted to pick her brain and seek advice, like so many photographers do. But in that moment, sitting across the table from her, I felt my world shift. I no longer felt lost and was beyond excited for the future. At one point, I even told MJ that this was a dream job. And it was. It still is.

Which is why this is so difficult for me. I have loved working for Melissa and with all of our amazing associates. I feel so connected & intertwined, proud & accomplished for all the changes & growth we’ve made over the years. But unfortunately, I never had any intention of working in the wedding industry long-term. I am a strong believer in taking risks and not living your life in fear. It’s never easy, especially when you’re comfortable & valued as much as I have been. But it’s a necessity in life if you want to continue growing. There are other passions that I feel compelled to pursue – the kinds of passions you lose sleep over because you can’t stop thinking about them. And you can only ignore those feelings for so long before they start to consume you.

The first time I shared these feelings with Melissa, I cried. And those weren’t the only tears I’ve shed throughout this transition, because how do you leave a job you love so much only to pursue the unknown? How do you let go when you’ve been so connected and intertwined for so long? It’s just a job, right?

No - it’s not just a job. And I guess that’s what makes this different from any other job I’ve had before. Melissa has become family to me – an older sister that I look up to and have tried so hard to emulate. She has given me endless advice – both personally and professionally – and she’s been there for me during some pretty tough times. But at the end of the day, I have to be true to myself – be myself – and listen to my heart’s desire for a new journey.

I’m beyond thankful for these past 3 1/2 years. I have learned more than my brain could hold at times, haha. I felt incredibly valued and appreciated. And even though the day-to-day has always just been MJ and I in the office, I’ve had the great pleasure of working alongside and building friendships with SO many wonderful human beings – from our associates, wedding vendors, sponsors, workshop attendees, to the photography community as a whole – but most importantly, our clients. It has been an absolute honor getting to know all of you!

To our current clients, whose weddings I will not be here to experience, I wish you all my very best!! And I promise I'm leaving you in good hands! I’m super proud to be passing the torch to one of the most thoughtful, most understanding, and best of all, most bubbly personalities I've had the pleasure to meet! I’ve taken everything in my brain and given it to her. Mix that with her own amazing skill-set and background, and she’s been a dream to train! I trust that she will, without a doubt, take great care of all your needs.

With that said, I'm SO happy to introduce to you MJP's new office manager, Alaine! To help you get to know her a bit better, we decided to do a fun little Q&A session:

Hi Alaine! So I'm sure everyone is curious to know - how did you get connect to Melissa?

Hi! Well, a few months ago, Kindra Hall, a college friend/previous co-worker of mine, knew I was looking for a new opportunity, and texted me with a link to Melissa's blog post about her ongoing search for an office manager. I'd admired Melissa's photography for years (ever since Kindra & Michael's wedding, in fact), so I looked into it. A flurry of emails and a lunch meeting later, and I was pretty sure I'd found a great place to work ... one that has cool people to connect with, gorgeous pictures to work with, and a cute dog to play with. Who wouldn't love that?!

Aww, agreed!! Do you have a background in photography?

Not at all! I'm one of those people who doesn't even own a camera; I have to rely on my phone for capturing important moments. My degrees are actually in Communication Studies, and my previous work experience hasn't gone near the wedding or photography industries. So this is a whole new world for me! Luckily, you have been working hard to get me up to speed, and Melissa is great with explaining her business and brand. It's exciting to be learning so much, and I'm touched to be trusted with such an important role.

Because you're now surrounded by all things wedding related, I must ask - are you married yourself?

I am! My husband Michael and I have been together since high school. He helped me make friends when I was the new kid in my junior year, and then he sent me flowers and asked me to prom. That was over 19 years ago. We have one son, Gabriel, who will be turning 16 soon. He enjoys being taller than I am waaaay too much. If you ever hear me say "my boys," I'm referring to Michael and Gabriel.

What do you do when you're not working with Melissa?

I read a whole lot. I have a lifelong love of fairy tales, mysteries, and historical novels. I even write my own tales of derring-do! I enjoy crafting resin jewelry, talking with friends, and roaming the Valley with my husband and son. And I spend way more time than the average woman decorating my nails with different colors and designs. They're like ten little canvases that I take with me everywhere. So fun to paint!

What are three interesting things about yourself that people wouldn't guess just by meeting you?

Ooh, difficult! Three interesting things about me:
1. I was born in Germany. My dad was stationed at Rhein Main Air Force Base, but I was born in Wiesbaden. When I was 14, we moved back to Germany, so I spent two years attending Frankfurt American High School. It was amazing! My swim team went to Italy and Belgium, and my drama club went to London. It's been two decades, and I'm still astounded by how huge America is in comparison to most European countries!
2. I worked at Walt Disney World after high school instead of going straight to college. It was such a good choice for my first "grown up" job! I learned tons about customer service. There was a lot of job flexibility, so I got to transfer around to different parts of the resorts. And there was a real sense of community; my husband and I still meet up with one of our Disney co-workers in California every year. Most importantly, it taught me the crucial skills of drawing Mickey Mouse's face and forging his signature. :)
3. I am the queen of no-sew family costumes! My husband, son, and I dress up together for Halloween every year, and sometimes for geeky occasions like Phoenix Comicon. If you ever desperately need to sculpt a platypus bill mask, I'm your girl! From Jedi to comic book villains to cereal box mascots, we have had a blast creating our costumes together every year.


This is MJ again! See what I mean -- SO talented. Costumes and Mickey Mouse's signature. I hit the jackpot -- haha! No, but seriously, Alaine has been training with us for 6 weeks now and she has impressed me so much. She has tackled every task put in front of her and picked them up much more quickly than I could have asked for someone who has not been in the photography or wedding industry before. She's already a color-correcting pro! And she is so kind-spirited. I can't wait for our clients to get to know her!

Sara, I have been so blessed to have you on my team for the past 3+ years! Thank you for your friendship and everything you've done to make MJP a success! And Alaine -- welcome!! I'm thrilled to have you join our team and can't wait to see what the future holds for us!

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